Fair dinkum - that bloke in his thongs and budgie smugglers looks a right state!

Erm, well - I guess this guy doesn't.

Before I go on, please let it be said that I make no apoligies for trying to make this website more female friendly. Too much talk of boozing it up and football can make for a very boring read!

Anyway - on with the next installment...

After making the decision to leave Belgium for Australia and in turn move so much further away from Ballyclare, one of the comforting things that I clung to was that I would be moving to a country where English was the native language.

Now don’t get me wrong – our Flemish cousins put most of the world to shame, boasting at least three languages in their linguistic repertoire, with English and French sitting comfortably with their native Flemish, a version of Dutch. In fact, many Flemish that I know are also equally at ease chatting away in German as well as Italian or Spanish.

It truly is impressive and on many an occasion it had me wishing that I had paid more attention in “Big Jim” Wilson’s French class during my days at Ballyclare High School.

But whilst it’s all well and good being able to converse in so many languages, it can leave them a little too literal in their conversations and their way of thinking, with them sometimes missing out completely on the finer nuances of our lovely language.

Or perhaps it was just that my Ballyclare accent didn’t travel as well as I’d hoped.

However, having lived Down Under for a few months now, I can quite honestly say that the Belgians are a lot easier to understand than some of the locals around here – and that’s when the Belgians were speaking in their native Flemish…

Now of course, the language of Ballyclare and its surrounds uses a colourful turn of phrase of its own, with much use of slang and colloquialisms but some of the stuff that I’ve heard people saying down here has had me pulling my hair out.

Take, for example, a conversation that I found myself ‘participating’ in, during one of my first nights in Australia sitting in the car with my better half at a set of traffic lights.

“Before we go to the bottle-o and sevsa, we should stop off at a servo for some petty” I unbelievingly heard her say.

I glanced worriedly over at her to make sure that she hadn’t been possessed by some strange demon, was speaking in tongues or indeed had some kind of mental breakdown.

“What’s wrong?” she enquired, no doubt concerned by my look of utter bemusement.
“What did you just say?”
“Which bit?”
“Ehm, all of it - was that supposed to be English?”
“Of course it was – I said ‘Before we go to the bottle-o and sevsa, we should stop off at a servo for some petty’”
“That’s what I thought you said. So what on earth are you talking about?”

Seeing my predicament, she then proceeded to go into great detail to explain to me that what she had just said was a suggestion that before we went to the off-license (bottle-o) and 7-11 store (sevsa) that we should stop off at the service station (servo) for some petrol (petty).

Easy enough - if you understand complete gibberish, that is.

And it hasn’t stopped there.
Almost every day, I hear words, many of them ludicrous in the extreme, to describe every day things. And this is everywhere. On the television, radio, in the pub – this somewhat relaxed attitude to our great language is prevalent in all walks of Australian society and you can be forgiven for thinking that you’ve walked onto the set of Home and Away and are surrounded by clones of Alf Stewart.

I’m not sure what it is – has all the sunshine and heat started to frazzle their brains? Is there a link to a whole in the ozone layer and reduced capacity to speak properly?

It also seems that nothing is sacred in the Australian search to abbreviate perfectly good words. Take for example ‘fireys’ and ‘ambos’ for firemen and ambulance servicemen. The Salvation Army is referred to as ‘The Salvos’ and ‘rellos’ are your relatives. In fact, it seems that just about anything can be suffixed by the letter ‘o’ and be perfectly acceptable in Australian conversation. ‘Arvo’ is afternoon, ‘Avos’ are avocados, the list is endless.

It can also get quite embarrassing, if you’re not well-versed in the finer details of the Aussie dialect. ‘Thongs’ are not a collection of sexy undergarments as you might think, but rather, the sandals that we would refer to as flip-flops. And when someone refers to being the proud owner of ‘double-plugged thongs’ – well – they just mean that their thongs are less likely to suffer from a ‘blow-out’ (referring to the unfortunate incident were the thongs fall apart during use.)

You can only imagine my surprise when my loved one excitedly informed me for the first time that she would be wearing her thongs to the beach!

Moving swiftly on…

It has to be said that some of the slang that they use I do find extremely entertaining and here are a few prime examples of them that you may like to try out next time you’re stood at the back bar of the Ballyboe waxing lyrical (and you know who you are):

Aquabog: To do to number 2 whilst swimming in the sea
Banana Benders: People who hail from my adopted home of Queensland
Budgie smugglers: men's bathing costumes, Speedos
Cockroach: a person from New South Wales
As dry as a dead dingo's donger: extremely dry (I’ll let you work out ‘donger’ for yourselves)
Drink with the flies: to drink alone
Drop your mates off at the pool: Going to the toilet for number two
Dunny: outside lavatory
Esky: large insulated food/drink container for picnics, barbecues etc.
Fair dinkum: true, genuine
Flat out like a lizard drinking: flat out, busy
Grinning like a shot fox: very happy, smugly satisfied
Grundies: undies, underwear (from Reg Grundy, a television person)
Liquid laugh / Laughing at the Lawn: vomit
Ocker: an unsophisticated person
Raw prawn: someone who is generally disagreeable
Rack off: push off! get lost! get out of here! also "rack off hairy legs!"
Sanger: a sandwich
Spewin': very angry
Sunnies: sunglasses
Ute: utility vehicle, pickup truck (Australia is full of these!)
White pointers: topless (female) sunbathers
Woop Woop: invented name for any small unimportant town - "he lives in Woop Woop" (presumably with Larne in mind)

Anyway – I think you all get the idea.

But I’m happy to report that this cultural exchange of our different dialects is a two-way street with many expressions from back home now becoming part of everyday usage in our household. Expressions like “Catch yerself on”, “Auch, Wind your neck in” and “Wise up, ya eejit” are increasingly perforating our conversations at home. All be it usually with an Aussie inflection and directed at me…

I think it will be a while before I’ll be talking about “sheoughs” or telling her to “houl her whist!”

Til next time Ballyclare.

BTW – thanks for the nice feedback on the articles, especially the kind comments from my fellow columnist. It’s nice to know that I still have such a regular connection, even one as tenuous as this, to my home town that I love so much.

P.S. Nana - you’re postcard is in the post!